True confessions and insider tips from coffee connoisseur JUNE NAYLOR educate the uninitiated and reveal what all the buzz is about.
Clearly, we coffee connoisseurs inspire a bit of eye-rolling. Criticized as being fanatical, we’re infamous for chasing down the most exclusive beans in pursuit of that next perfect cup of coffee, changing course with such devoted purpose that we might as well be Jason Bourne hunting his newest quarry. So be it. The uninformed cannot fathom the dictates our coffee-craving palate employs. We’ll sleuth out the next source of extraordinary joe, wherever it can be found. Like Bourne, we cannot rest.
Our zeal shouldn’t surprise. Just as oenophiles faithfully frequent wine tastings and foodies search the local farm stand for the most seasonal, sustainable edible, we coffee aficionados zealously anticipate finding our next personal favorite at the weekly cuppings hosted at our beloved roaster’s outlet, and our ear is to the ground to find out which shop has acquired the super high-tech pressure machines, such as the Slayer or La Marzocco’s Strada. And in the manner that the wine collector maintains close ties with his negotiant, we’ve cultivated a cozy relationship with our roaster, knowing his kids’ birthday-party plans as well as those of our own family.
As avid readers of the bimonthly Roast Magazine, we’ve created as many international files on our laptops as money managers will for world markets. Over the years, we’ve studied the growing trends for the leading single-source, organic, and Fair Trade producers, becoming intimately familiar with Kona coffee from Hawaii’s Big Island, Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica, and, more recently, the exquisite Sanani from Yemen, thought to be the planet’s earliest source of commercially traded coffee.
And, yes, we even fell hard for Civet, the smooth, rich Indonesian coffee produced from fermented beans excreted by a furry, catlike jungle animal that feeds on delicious, ripe coffee cherries. No quest can be too extreme — certainly not remodeling our kitchens to create a coffee garage that keeps our newest machinery and accoutrements in a custom space.
This summer, upon hearing that the Japanese spent $170 per pound on a 400-pound lot of the beans, we contemplated a trip to Tokyo to be guaranteed a taste of the Geisha, a coffee produced by Hacienda la Esmeralda of Panama — one called, at that moment, the best in the world.
That word came from Oliver Strand, who, as curator for The New York Times’ coffee page, pens “Ristretto,” an online column that details every trend in the java world. His take on the Geisha told us we’re in store for a “delicate, layered” brew that would summon essences of “honeysuckle, sugary citrus peels, and white peach.” Ah, we knew a good summer was in store, particularly upon learning that several fine roasters in the United States had scored a few lots of the Geisha.
Alas, the Esmeralda Geisha would be gone by September. But as any extraordinary coffee supply is seasonal, we’re habitually courting a new coffee every week or two. Our insiders’ instincts have already taken us on an entirely new mission. Bourne-like , we endeavor.